auDA pushes back implementation of direct .au domain registration

Organisation’s board says it remains committed to changes

.au Domain Administration Ltd (auDA), the custodian of the .au domain space, will delay introducing the direct registration of .au domains.

The organisation had previously intended to introduce direct registration — which will allow the registration of domains in the fashion of as opposed to or — in Q4 of 2019.

auDA in early 2018 launched an initial public consultation on allowing direct registration. It followed the October 2017 convening of a policy review panel examining the issue and changes to a range of existing auDA policies.

The panel’s final report, released in March 2019, made a number of recommendations relating to direct registration, including a priority allocation period for existing holders of equivalent third level (e.g. domains and a conflict resolution process.

Other recommendations from the panel for the licensing of the .au domain space included an Australian presence requirement, stricter controls to combat resale and warehousing, the retention of existing measures to combat typo squatting, and the retention of the reserved names list.

In a message to members published today, auDA’s chair, Suzanne Ewart, said that it was “critically important” that the planned introduction of direction registration and new licensing rules for .au domains “are widely understood, backed by an education program and supported by robust business processes throughout industry.”

“It is also essential that these changes are implemented in a way that minimises imposts on business and avoids unintended consequences,” Ewart wrote.

auDA’s board earlier this week decided to conduct an additional consultation “aimed at promoting awareness among new audiences, sharing more widely our plans to simplify the licence rules, and [to] thoroughly understand and avoid any potential implementation issues”.

“During this three-month period we will also take the opportunity to partner with industry to further test software changes, improve complaint processes and work with registrars to efficiently check the eligibility of applicants,” Ewart wrote.

The outcome of the consultation will be considered by the board in late 2019 or early 2020 “after new governance arrangements have been implemented and the reconstituted auDA Board is in place”. As a result, the changes to domain registration are expected to take place in the first half of next year. The auDA chair said the board remained committed to the changes.

The introduction of direct registration has been contentious in some quarters, with accusations it could create an SEO and security nightmare. REA Group, for example, used auDA’s consultation process to argue there was “no  objective evidence showing a net benefit to industry” from the introduction of direct registration.

The functioning of auDA itself has also come under scrutiny, including in the form of a government review that called for a shakeup of its operations.